Obvious Child

00:00 July 09, 2014
By: Fritz Esker
[Courtesy of A24]

** out of ****

Romantic comedies have often been kind to men with unconventional looks, but far less so to women who don't look like Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan.So, when a movie like Obvious Child comes along, I really want it to succeed.But sadly, the end result is a thin, flimsy film with a grating, selfish protagonist at its center.

Jenny Slate plays a struggling amateur standup comedian who has just been dumped by her boyfriend.In a night of heavy drinking, she hooks up with a straight arrow guy (Jake Lacy).Shortly thereafter, she finds herself pregnant and immediately decides to get an abortion.

Many movies are afraid to tackle the subject of abortion at all (in Knocked Up, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill discussed it without actually saying the word).So, Obvious Child should get points for bravery, but the movie around it is so empty that it feels like it wants accolades just for having a main character who gets an abortion without thinking twice about it.

If you're anti-abortion in any way, this is definitely not the movie for you.However, even pro-choice people may find Slate's neurotic, childish character infuriating.The manner in which she tells Lacy of the pregnancy and her decision to terminate is downright horrible.Yet the film follows it with Lacy bringing her flowers the next day.It should've been the other way around.

Some may ask that if you don't like a main character, does it mean you shouldn't like the movie, too?There's no easy answer, and any I could give would be very subjective.As a counterpoint, I liked Frances Ha, which also featured a sometimes maddening female protagonist.But, I respected that film more because the characters around Frances were often exasperated by her, so it felt like the movie wasn't letting her off the hook for her behaviors.Plus, at the end, it felt like there was real growth.But in Obvious Child, the characters largely coddle and validate Slate non-stop (with the exception of her ex and an unfunny digression involving a character played by David Cross).And at the end, she shows no real growth or maturity.

When it was over, I resented having spent 85 minutes with that character.If it were funnier, or better plotted, I could've potentially swallowed my distaste for her. But the movie isn't any of those things, so I couldn't (and FYI, I loved Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Vera Drake, 2 movies that deal sympathetically towards characters giving or receiving abortions, so it's not the abortion plot that bothered me here).

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